Although in the past daily consumption of nuts was considered unhealthy, epidemiological studies now suggest that eating nuts regularly is unlikely to lead to obesity or increased risk of diabetes. In fact, nuts may help to regulate body weight by decreasing appetite and fat absorption.
The role of nuts in lowering blood cholesterol, particularly LDL or bad cholesterol is well established. High levels of low density lipoproteins or LDL are associated with the formation of plaques or deposits in the walls of arteries that lead to the heart. This in turn increases one’s risk for coronary heart disease which may manifest as a heart attack or a stroke.
Studies show that a variety of nuts provide rich sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. These include omega-3 fatty acids which are known to reduce blood cholesterol and triglycerides. They also have other bioactive nutrients with important metabolic effects.
Eating nuts counteracts dyslipidemia, a condition where one has high cholesterol or fat in the blood. This is why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), recommends eating about a handful of nuts a day, including walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, some pine nuts, peanuts, and pistachio nuts to reduce one’s risk of heart disease.
Aside from containing high amounts of unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, nuts also contain a healthy amount of fiber which helps reduce high cholesterol and prevent diabetes. They contain vitamin E which aids in the prevention of plaque formation and coronary heart disease. Nuts also provide L-arginine, a substance that may help make the walls of the arteries more flexible and less prone to blockage from blood clot formation.
Including Nuts in Your Diet
To enjoy the health benefits of nuts it is important to remember these:
- Include a variety of nuts in the daily diet, taking about 1.5 ounces, or 42.5 grams (approximately one handful) per day.
- Eat nuts as healthy snacks instead of potato chips, doughnuts or other junk food.
- Avoid eating salty nuts or sugar-coated nuts to maintain their healthy benefits. Chocolate-coated or honey-roasted nuts have additional calories, too.
- Nuts are high in calories, so do not eat more than the recommended amount each day.
- Replace the bacon or cheese in your salad with a small amount of nuts, since those contain high amounts of saturated fat while nuts have a healthy amount of polyunsaturated fat.
- Aside from eating nuts as snacks they can also be used as a condiment. One can sprinkle them on salad, yogurt, cereal, fruit, soup, vegetables, or other entrees. They can also be part of cake, pastry and pasta recipes.
Which Nuts are Good?
Most nuts will provide healthy amounts of fat and other nutrients although some appear to be better than others. One of the best-studied nuts is the walnut, which has been found to contain large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, the FDA has allowed the health benefits associated with it, which state that these nuts may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Other nuts also appear to be heart-healthy include pecans, almonds, hazelnuts and macadamia nuts. Peanuts are technically not a kind of nut since they are legumes, like beans. Nevertheless, people regard them as nuts and are considered to be healthy.
Lower Cholesterol with Nuts
Nuts should be included as part of a healthy diet because they provide considerable amounts of healthy fats, fiber, vitamin E and L-arginine. They may be eaten daily as snacks or as part of other food preparations. However, one must take care not to eat more than a handful per day and avoid those that are salty or sugar-coated to enjoy their health benefits.